Apr 18
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The Ruins exhibition may be called a success, a very good show at the opening of the gallery made it quite difficult to take in all that was there for show. It was a very close knit showing, all the pieces seemed to flow well together. This was a great exhibit for the UWM Gallery. No one piece stuck in the minds of others quite like Ma Yongfeng’s The Swirl. This was a fifteen minute video installation that featured the washing of orange Koi Fish was quite disturbing. The video starts with a camera placed above an open washer filled with six or seven Large Koi fish. As the water rises, the fish swim along as they would in a normal pond, but when the water stops filling, the cycle starts and the fish are tossed about. The camera remains above the washer through the remainder of the cycle. As the cycle comes to a stop, the water drains and leaves the Koi without water in the washer; Ma Yongfeng then slowly fades out leaving us to imagine what happened to the fish.
Apr 18
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The opening of the Ruins Exhibition was a memorable experience. There were quite a few people at the opening, which made it sort of hard to get around to all the artwork. The artwork seemed to coincide with one another; nothing seemed out of place. One video piece that was rather disturbing was Ma Yongfeng’s The Swirl. This particular video started out with an opening shot of an orange koi filled washing machine slowing filling with water. Shortly after the machine finished filling with water, it began to spin. Swirl is an appropriate title for this work because as the washing machine spun around there were swirls of orange within the water. It became apparent that the fish were not just calmly swimming in a pond as they naturally would, but struggling through the abnormal currents created by the washing machine. This cycle went on for about 15 minutes. The washing machine stopped spinning and slowly began to drain the water, leaving the koi that seemed to have survived behind to flap around helplessly for about 2 minutes without water. The video then cut out, which one could conclude that the koi died but one would not know for sure, never the less it was very disturbing to watch animals suffer in the name of art. This project may not have been so bad if Ma Yongfeng could have found a way to use objects to create the same swirl rather than living animals.
Apr 18
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“Swirling” a video by Ma Yongfeng held particular interest with many attendants of the show. The fifteen minute long digital video loop was displayed on a television screen in INOVA’s entranceway. Six Koi are dumped into an upright washing machine and churned around through several cycles. Orange forms twist and loop through the vigorous wash cycle, creating a kaleidoscope of shape and form. Not only is the video hypnotizing, its intentions are perplexing to viewers. At the end of the hypnotic wash cycles, the water drains and the fish are left to flop and struggle for several more minutes before dying. Why are these fish tortured so brutally, and why are we so apt to carefully watch? Viewers are overcome with guilt and are confronted with a metaphor for current events in China. Koi, a symbolic animal of Chinese prosperity, have become the victim of swift modernistic change (symbolized by the washing machine). Yongfeng has effectively created a push and pull between empathy and disgust, resulting in a dynamic conceptual interplay.
Apr 18
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Traditionally Chinese art is thought of as ancient calligraphy and artworks that are done in a very strict manner and passed on throughout many generations. While watching the piece of video art entitled “Swirl” I was completely surprised. It had the traditional Chinese element being the carp and I feel that by placing them in the washing machine was a bit controversial. This can be taken many ways by many viewers. I felt that just placing the carp into a washing machine was an interesting idea, for the fact that it was mixing a conventional Chinese symbol with a modern day top loading clothes washer. It seemed to be a nice contrast between the new and old and the ancient and the contemporary. The part that got to me was the fact that the artist actually turned the washing machine on, and had the carpe be put through an entire washing cycle was a little unnecessary. This may seem a bit cliché, in the sense that I sound like an animal rights activist. But I just feel that leaving them run in the machine for 15 minutes and then showing the water drain at the end of the video was a little harsh.
Art seems to coming in many new forms lately, some seem to be a little more controversial than others, one being the “Sensations” show that was on exhibit in New York City where a shark was placed in a pool of formaldehyde and then placed on display for the public to see. In September of 1999, Mayor Giulliani was pushing to get the exhibit kicked out of New York City.
Apr 17
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre in Queens, New York this season is featuring an entire section dedicated to Chinese Contemporary art (particularily video, probably due to easy travel and exhibition).

Though interest in China is all the rage right now for forward-thinking business workers and the global avant-garde, the world remains largely skeptical or ignorant of the rapid fire modernization that is happening.

This exhibit marks only the beginning of China's activity as the forefront of the world's future in modern living, thinking, and culture. A new young generation of citizens are taking on the world introducing new vitality to the world stage.

The exhibit demonstrates art that is distinctly Chinese that is not heavily weighed down by tradition or obscure exoticism (that maybe alienating to foreign viewers). It addressed many issues surrounding modern Chinese living and society including works by Guangzhou artist Cao Fei and a video featuring coy fish (a Chinese symbol of prosperity) being tossed about in a modern-day washing machine.

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PS1 : 22-25 Jackson Ave., Queens, NY 11101
February 26, 2006 through May 1, 2006

(Long Island City, New York – February 10, 2006) P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents The Thirteen: Chinese Video Now, an exhibition featuring a young generation of Chinese artists working with new media and responding to the great socio-economic changes that are taking place in the country. The thirteen emerging artists and artist teams—most of them born in the 1960s and 1970s—will show twenty-three video works. The Thirteen: Chinese Video Now is on view from February 26 through May 1, 2006.

Their choice to work with video—a relatively cheap medium that produces rapid results—underscores the heady times they face. Unlike the earlier generation of Chinese artists who gained recognition in the 1990s, the majority of these young artists choose to remain in China, living and working in major urban centers like Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. In these cities they experience first-hand the growing consumer culture and rapid urban development.

Though most of these artists have presented their work internationally, many of them have not exhibited in the United States. This exhibition will present, and in many cases introduce, some of the most exciting work produced in China today.

Artists in The Thirteen: Chinese Video Now are: 8gg (multimedia duo Jiang Haiqing and Fu Yu, based in Beijing); Cui Xiuwen (b. 1970 in Heilongjiang, lives and works in Beijing); Dong Wensheng (b. 1970 in Jiangsu province, lives in Changzhou); Cao Fei (b. 1978 in Guangzhou, lives in Guangzhou); Hu Jieming (b. 1957 in China, lives and works in Shanghai); Huang Xiaopeng (b. 1960 in Shanxi, lives and works in Guangzhou); Li Songhua (b. 1969 in Beijing, lives and works in Beijing); Liang Yue (b. 1979 in Shanghai, lives and works in Beijing and Shanghai); Lu Chunsheng (b. 1968 in Changchun, lives and works in Shanghai); Ma Yongfeng (b. 1971 in Shanxi, lives and works in Beijing); Meng Jin (b. 1973 in Chong Qing); Xu Tan (b. 1957 in Wuhan; lives and works in Shanghai and Guangzhou); and Xu Zhen (b. 1977 in Shanghai, lives and works in Shanghai).

The Thirteen: Chinese Video Now is co-curated by David Thorp and Sun Ning, Director of Platform China in Beijing.
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